The meaty aromas of kalua pork and mahi-mahi waft across the patio at SmokeHouse Chili Grill as diners bid farewell to summer with sauce-stained handkerchiefs. Though renowned for their much-hyped chili, the grill’s chefs pack their charcoal bags for an island paradise of meats simmering in Hawaiian spices. Ukuleles join in with lip-smacking xylophones of baby back ribs to make sweet music on the palate while taste buds hold luaus in anticipation of the authentic pig roast. Waves of teriyaki shrimp and mahi-mahi crash on grills, beckoning guests to dive into second or third helpings throughout the afternoon.
Whether beneath the thatched roof of the tiki hut or at an intimate table surrounded by bamboo shoots, Papaya Thai and Asian BBQ’s tropical themes pervade the eatery’s confines. The barbecue bar grants diners a front-row seat to watch chefs expertly grill marinated meats and veggies on wooden skewers, wielding the power of fire like Prometheus to cook beef to its tender best state. A variety of Thai tasting plates and main dishes include classics such as pad thai, sizzling chicken in a thai barbecue sauce, and skewered chicken satay. From the tiki bar, bartenders pour tropical drinks such as papaya thai-ritas made with sweet mango and nutty monkeys, an almond-rum-banana concoction the staff delivers to tables by way of swinging through the rafters.
BJ Ryan's BanC House satiates cravings for both fresh coastal catches and savory wood-smoked meats that exude Southern charm. The slow-smoked pulled pork calls to taste buds from the plate where it sits slathered in homemade sauce and dry rub, and savory shrimp and grits blend dry rub and cheddar flavors. The talented chefs pay a special tribute to fresh crab, which can be added to any entree, steaming dishes such as the BanC crab cake, dungeness, Alaskan king, or blue crabs, which come dressed in homemade roasted-garlic sauce, ginger caramel, or inner-harbor spice.
Not to be overshadowed by the succulent food, BJ Ryan's dark, varnished wood and black-lacquered furnishings effuse a low-key, yet carefully kept dining environment marked by old photos and broad chalkboards listing the day’s specials.
When the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives came to visit Mo Gridder’s BBQ, host Guy Fieri couldn’t get over that barbecue this delicious was being served in the parking lot of a Bronx auto-repair shop. But when, like Fred Donley, you’re both a head mechanic and a head chef, you have to keep your workplaces close together. Fred picked up BBQ as a hobby a few years back and started to bring in samples for his customers at the auto shop. Their rave reviews encouraged him to make it a part of his business. Now you’ll find a 35-foot cooking trailer in the parking lot and a dining area in a room where he used to service cars. On certain days, you can even get special deals that combine Fred’s two passions, such as a windshield replacement and a rack of ribs.
Despite its unusual setting, Mo Gridder’s still serves up barbecue “so good you’ll think you’re in Texas,” according to Fieri. Fred slow-cooks all his meats in a massive cooker, so whether it’s his signature pulled pork sandwiches, brisket, chicken, or ribs, it’s tender and juicy.
At Memphis Mae's BBQ Bistro, owners Andreas Nowara and Jeff Matros are rewriting the barbecue gospel. They've crossed out a number of popular myths—that barbecue joints should be shrouded in smoke, that barbecue puritans only cook in the style of a single region, and that those who divulge secret recipes should be cooked themselves—in favor of a more chic and diverse sauce hot spot. Their dining room emulates a crisp bistro, and their menu traverses several Southern states, listing Texas beef brisket alongside Carolina pulled pork and Memphis ribs. They don't limit themselves solely to barbecue staples, either. Comfort foods such as Mississippi catfish and chicken-fried steak appease patrons who might not want to get their hands dirty, and vegetarian options include smoked portobello mushrooms and "pasties" filled with sautéed vegetables.
Their eclectic approach has hardly canceled out down-home prep, however. The kitchen's wood smokers infuse meats with flavor 24 hours a day, passing on zesty notes from pecan and hickory logs. The beer is likewise carefully brewed, arriving from Dogfish Head, Duvel, and other craft companies. In maintaining this delicate balance between strict tradition and inclusivity, Memphis Mae's BBQ Bistro has cemented a savory reputation. The restaurant has catered the New York Yankees' opening-day celebration and was later featured in the New York Times which praised its brunch and catalog of sides, which contains drunken yams, peach applesauce, and none of "the usual throwaways or fillers that most barbecue joints offer."